They say the true worth of a person’s life is measured by how many lives they have touched for the better.
If this is true, few, if anyone, will match the impact Dick Gallagher has made.
“An outstanding person,” said longtime friend Dennis Sarow, who serves on the Connolly Cup committee.
Western New Yorkers were rocked by the news that Gallagher, the beloved figure in local high school sports, had entered Hospice.
Gallagher, 79, has been battling cancer and was recently transferred to Hospice after a stay at Roswell.
“He was always my hero,” Bob Gallagher said of his twin brother, who is 2 minutes older.
Known by many as the guru of WNY high school sports, Gallagher was ahead of histime.
A true pioneer of covering high school sports, long before there was social media and an army of people following in his footsteps.
Mr. Gallagher was at the forefront. He created the template that every scholastic reporter that came after him follows.
His WNY High School Sports paper, which he founded in 1983, became a staple on the scholastic sports scene.
“That used to be the go-to paper that everybody wanted to read because they wanted to see somebody’s name in the paper that he thought deserves some ink,” said close friend and former Lancaster AD Len Jankiewicz, “and boy he really worked at it and lot of times at his own expense. I know this for a fact – he used his own money to pay for the cost of the printing.”
Jankiewicz also talked about the level of respect college football coaches had for Gallagher.
Year after year, Dick would put out a handwritten primer about the crop of local football talent. College coaches swore by Dick’s word because they knew character was of the utmost importance to him. So if a kid had Dick Gallagher’s stamp of approval that was all a college coach needed to hear.
Though its coverage of football was the paper’s center piece, Dick devoted much time and effort to every sport.
Whether it was baseball, basketball, softball.. every sport and every kid had a place in Dick Gallagher’s heart.
“He did what he could for these kids,” Sarow said. “I don’t think you’ll see another person like him.”
Friends will tell you it was Dick’s kindness and grandfatherly way about him that stood out more than anything. He was always smiling. Always happy. Always thankful for every day. Every breath.
“He never had a bad day or a bad thing to say about anyone,” said Ch.2 sports reporter, Stu Boyar. “I’m just heartbroken.”
After putting WNY High School Sports to rest in 2010, Dick focused his efforts in helping Ch.2 expand its high school coverage through the station website and talk shows.
He also became a cherished mentor of the WNY Athletics team, lending his guidance in a way that only Mr. Gallagher could.
Both lifelong Red Sox fans, Dick was an accomplished baseball player in his youth. The Gallagher twins spent countless hours together on ball fields. Their bond grew even tighter over the years as their father’s job with the Veterans Administration resulted in the family moving ten different times.
Dick and Bob truly were each other’s best friend growing up.
“His faith in God. His faith in family and his love for his community is what woke him up every day,” Bob Gallagher said. “He went to mass daily and he was very grateful for the friends that he had in the community.”
Graduating from Haverling High School in Bath, New York in 1959, Gallagher earned a Bachelors degree from Kings College.
He came to Buffalo in 1967, earning his master degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo two years after his arrival.
He married Ann, the love of his life, and they had three kids together: Michael, Christine and Richard, Jr.
Athletics was only one layer of this multi-gifted man’s life.
Gallagher was a passionate advocate for the youth of WNY in many ways. His social work saw Gallagher serve as the Director of Buffalo Area Council on Alcoholism, among the many jobs he’s had in this field.
Gallagher was also the driving force in creating the well known Kids Escaping Drugs program. In 1990, Dick helped make the Renaissance House – a 30 bed teen substance abuse treatment facility – a reality.
Jankiewicz related a story from his days as the Lancaster AD when he was trying to help a student-athlete who was struggling with substance abuse.
“The young man came to me for help and I was having a meeting with him and he poured his soul out to me,” Jankiewicz recalled. “I suggested a meeting with an expert (in this field) and I had Dick in mind.”
Len said he called Dick around 11am to tell him about the young man and his situation.
Less than an hour later Gallagher was standing in the doorway of Jankiewicz’s office asking to meet this young man.
“I didn’t expect him to come right away, and he dropped everything,” Jankiewicz said.
During his career Dick Gallagher collected countless awards and honors. Most notably his enshrinement in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (2003) and the Section VI Hall of Fame. His most recent honor was Project Play presenting Dick with its Lifetime Service Award last year.
One of the most humble, soft spoken people you will ever meet, Dick Gallagher has no idea how many people in the WNY sports community cherish him. From coaches and athletic directors to athletes, parents and his brethren in the media. Mr. Gallagher, simply stated, is an icon.
“We were very close,” Bob Gallagher said. “We spoke almost daily, sometimes twice a day and he was always commenting how great the entire Buffalo community was and his love for everyone. ”
That at its core is what Dick Gallagher is all about: love.
He was always motivated by the desire to do good for others. Especially kids.
“He was the most humble person that I ever knew,” Bob Gallagher continued. “He never did anything for personal glory or recognition. He always wanted to make things better for others. Whether it was starting Kids Escaping Drugs or with football he treasured that time.”
Jankiewicz smiled as he fondly recalled his monthly coffee dates at Tim Horton’s with Dick and another close friend, the late Milt Dickerson.
Len understandably had to pause when he talked about his visit with Gallagher Tuesday afternoon. And, what might very well be the final words he ever said to his dear friend of so many years.
“I just love him to death. That was actually the last thing I told him,” Jankiewicz said.
Perhaps it was Dick himself who best summed up his time on time on Earth during an interview with the The Buffalo News.
“I’m a background person,” Dick said. “Nothing I do is about rewards because God will give me my rewards. It’s all about the kids and doing good things for them.”
The thought of Dick Gallagher departing this world is sad enough. It’s made even more tragic when you consider that in this time of unrest the kind of love, kindness and understanding Dick displayed every day is needed now more than ever before.
“We could use a lot more of him,” Sarow lamented.
We certainly could.
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